Wherever you turn, it seems like someone’s angry -- on Facebook and cable news, in street marches and congressional town halls. It would seem that we’ve entered a new era of increased hostility. But how did we, as a nation, get here? Is it possible we’re addicted to outrage? This hour, we explore the advantages and perils of getting mad as hell.
Brendan Steinhauser was watching Rick Santelli on Squawk Box, listening to the CNBC editor’s now-legendary rant following the 2009 bailout of the financial sector that ended with his call for a “Chicago Tea Party” outside of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Steinhauser thought it sounded like a good idea, so he and other activists from Freedomworks did tap into that rage to organize the Taxpayer March on Washington in 2009. Reflecting on the moment, Steinhauser recalls how political anger was just one step toward what he hoped would be lasting political change.
Anger seems to be bubbling over all over the world today. Terrorist attacks in Europe, hate crimes in the US, and populist leaders everywhere spouting nationalist slogans that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable. Writer Pankaj Mishra traces the roots of contemporary political rage back to a surprising source: the 18th century Enlightenment.
In 1978, in San Francisco, a terrible and famous crime took place. Harvey Milk, one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials, was assassinated. Cleve Jones was a young activist and Harvey’s protégé, the man who would later create the AIDS Memorial Quilt. What he remembers about that time is how the gay community channeled anger and grief into a night he’ll never forget.
There’s a lot of vitriol out there these days. Partisan sniping on social media, screaming matches on cable news, and early morning tweetstorms from certain elected officials. Frankly, it’s exhausting. And also infuriating, blood-boiling, and maddening — so why can’t we let it go? Could we, as a nation, be addicted to anger? That’s what science fiction writer and astrophysicist David Brin thinks. In fact, he wrote an open letter to addiction researchers and psychologists, asking them to investigate America’s epidemic of self-righteous indignation.
Anger can separate us into partisan camps, but it can also inspire people to work together to achieve amazing things. Michael Eric Dyson knows this firsthand. His latest book “Tears We Cannot Stop,” reads as a call to action for many Americans.
It used to be easy to get lost in a good book, but now lots of people say reading is boring. Scientists say all that skimming and surfing on electronic screens is actually rewiring our brains. So we examine the new science of reading, and meet celebrated New Yorker book critic James Wood.
Also, Jordanian scientist Rana Dajani tells the remarkable story of how she started a reading program for kids at her local mosque, which has spread to hundreds of libraries across the Middle East. And Princeton historian Tony Grafton uncovers the history of reading by looking in the margins of books.
Are we losing the ability to read difficult books? Cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf says we need to develop a "bi-literate reading brain" so that we can switch back and forth between the deep reading of print and the skimming of electronic texts.
James Wood is often called the best critic of his generation. He looks back at his own career, from writing brutal take-downs at the Guardian to his current perch at The New Yorker, and tells us why genre fiction makes him "anxious." You can read the transcript of the complete interview at Electric Literature.
When she moved back to Jordan, molecular biologist Rana Dajani realized that children there didn't read for pleasure. So she started a reading program at her local mosque. Since then, her reading program has reached more than 10,000 kids in Jordan and has spread across the Middle East.
Can we ever know how people used to read - say, 500 years ago? Princeton historian Tony Grafton is obsessed with that question. He says we get plenty of clues by looking at what our ancestors wrote in the margins of books, and this provides a glimpse at how people thought about themselves and the world around them.
Rolling Stone India has called Karsh Kale one of "the high priests of electro." He's a pioneer of the Asian Underground and top DJ at clubs around the world, from Ibiza to New York. He tells Charles Monroe-Kane about his lifelong journey to blend his two cultures: Indian and American.